NWF Reveals Newly Uncovered Documents Showing Portland-Montreal Pipeline Already Past Retirement Date

"This is yet another reason any tar sands project in Northern New England is far too risky."

03-13-2014 // Miles Grant
Bull Moose

According to the company that owns it, the 64-year-old pipeline that currently transports crude oil from Portland, Maine, to Montreal has already passed its projected retirement date, documents recently discovered by the National Wildlife Federation show. The Exxon-owned Portland Pipe Line Corporation (PPLC) seeks to reverse the aging pipeline to transport heavy, corrosive, toxic tar sands oil, one of the dirtiest, costliest, and most climate-disrupting fuels in the world.

"This is yet another reason any tar sands project in Northern New England is far too risky," said Jim Murphy, senior counsel at the National Wildlife Federation’s Northeast Regional Center.  “As we saw with the tragic tar sands oil disaster in Mayflower, Arkansas, last year, these old pipelines can and will fail. It would be utterly irresponsible to try to pump impossible-to-clean-up tar sands through a pipe the company itself admits is past its retirement date and that crosses some of New England’s most sensitive wildlife habitat."

As shown by court documents from the 1990s recently discovered by the National Wildlife Federation, both the Exxon-owned Portland Pipe Line Corporation (PPLC), which owns the pipeline system, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) have stated that the pipes’ lifespan is 60 years. The 18” pipe, which is most likely to be used to transport tar sands oil, was built in 1950 – putting its retirement date at 2010, four years ago.  The other line, a 24” line that runs alongside it, was built in 1965 and would therefore only have 11 years of use left.

"These documents show once again that the pipeline company and its corporate owners will say anything to achieve greater profits,” said Dylan Voorhees, clean energy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “When it suits them they argue the pipeline's end-of-life is in 2010, then, when they want to consider piping tar sands, they argue it can be used in perpetuity. This is no time to consider converting it to carry toxic tar sands across Sebago Lake, Maine’s largest drinking water supply.”

"These documents are the smoking gun that should finally put an end to any attempt by the oil industry to use the pipeline to carry tar sands. Enough is enough,” said Emily Figdor, director of Environment Maine. “We call on the Portland Pipe Line Corp. to promise the people of Maine, from Bethel to South Portland, that our communities, our water, and our coast will not be put in harm’s way by a reckless project that should never have been considered in the first place."

Background: In 1994, PPLC was involved in a case before the Supreme Court of New Hampshire, where the company was seeking an abatement of taxes levied on the pipeline by the town of Gorham, New Hampshire. While Gorham stated that the pipeline would remain in service for 90 years, PPLC argued with a report and expert testimony that a more realistic lifespan would be 60 years. In the case, the New Hampshire Supreme Court accepted the 60 year estimate. This information can be found in a trial brief signed and dated by counsel for PPLC.

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